YEREVAN - Turkish Daily News

The members of the youth team at an influential Armenian radio station are pushing for the normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia and for fruitful dialogue coupled with close contact between the peoples of both countries.
Erik Gazharian, a member of the youth program at Radio Liberty (Azatutyun in Armenian) and an international relations expert, addressed Western countries and the Armenian Diaspora, saying: �Western countries manipulate the Armenian issue in line with their own interests and their interferences damage Armenia's relations with Turkey. The Diaspora, on the other hand, should be well aware of the fact that Armenia is an independent republic. And Turkey should consider not the Diaspora but the Republic of Armenia as her addressee.�

Gazharian was also critical of the Armenian genocide bill that would grant U.S. congressional recognition to the alleged genocide. �The states have been utilizing such a sensitive issue while also maintaining its own interests, which pushes Armenia into big difficulty, and Turkey unfortunately takes a negative attitude toward Armenia -- not to America -- because of such attempts,� he said, referring to the genocide resolution.

Gazharian said he believed the Armenian issue had been politicized, saying the current question, rooted in a controversial history, should be the concern of objective historians from both sides. �No matter whatever you call it, genocide or forced migration, a painful episode took place in history. This is undeniable,� he added.

The youth program's director, Karlen Aslanian, on the other hand, said of the Armenian issue: �The bitter events that occurred in the past decades are still the biggest obstacle to a possible reconciliation between the two peoples, the Turks and the Armenians. We, the two sides, do not communicate with each other. It is a must for both of us to start dialogue and to share our pains with each other.�

Normalization of relations more important than border opening

For Gazharian, a move by Armenian President Serge Sarkisian to extend an invitation to Turkish President Abdullah Gül to watch a football game together was a significant step, signaling normalization of bilateral relations. �The first statesman that congratulated Sarkisian immediately after he ascended the presidential throne was President Gül,� said Gazharian. �I hope positive course of relations between Turkey and Armenia would not remain limited only to a football game,� he added.

Gazharian also addressed Armenian politicians. �If politicians in Armenia want to establish good relations with Turkey, border opening should not be the only criterion in their eyes anymore. Open borders do not necessarily mean normalized bilateral relations,� he said.

Gazharian visited Turkey last year -- his first visit to the country. Because the Turkey-Armenia border was (and is still) closed, he entered Turkey from Georgia. �I just wanted to personally experience the feeling of traveling along a closed border between two neighboring countries. So, instead of entering Turkey from an open gate located at a spot that is 50 minutes away from Yerevan, I chose to travel for hours and hours in a bus to Georgia. From there, I cd to Turkey,� he said.

Families from Armenia spend their holiday in Antalya

Both Gazharian and Aslanian plan to visit Turkey once again in the upcoming weeks. On their next visit, they would like to bring some of their young friends as well. �We have positive opinions about Turkey. Yes, painful event did occur in the past decades. But from now on, we should look to future not to the past,� they said.

Rich families from Armenia go to Turkey's Mediterranean resort town Antalya each summer to spend their holiday, said Aslanian. According to official figures, approximately 70,000 citizens of Armenia spent their summer vacation in Antalya last year, he added.

�Those people, who are presented as enemies against Turkey, chose to spend their holiday in Turkey rather than spending it in any Western countries,� said Aslanian, arguing that such non-political relations between societies are more significant than political relations between states.